In a significant move, the Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations (Gates Ag One) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) have announced their partnership to enhance research aimed at improving staple crops cultivated by millions of African farmers.
AATF operates in over 20 countries in Eastern, Southern and West Africa, focusing on developing innovations that address the issue of low agricultural productivity and promote better livelihoods for smallholder farmers. One notable accomplishment of AATF is the introduction of five new hybrid rice varieties specially adapted for African conditions, resulting in increased yields from three to 10 tonnes per hectare.
Moreover, AATF has successfully coordinated a global initiative to develop and release pod borer-resistant (PBR) cowpea in three West African countries. This variety contains a gene that produces a protein fatal to the Maruca pod borer, a destructive pre-harvest pest. Given the expansion of harmful insects due to climate change, this breakthrough equips farmers with an additional tool to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
The executive director at AATF, Canisius Kanangire expressed enthusiasm about the newly formed partnership, stating, “We’re excited to join forces with Gates Ag One and build upon our previous efforts and achievements, which have significantly advanced agricultural productivity throughout Africa”.
Established two decades ago, AATF manages public-private partnerships to facilitate the transfer of innovative technologies, ensuring smallholder farmers in Africa can access the latest advancements. Despite sub-Saharan Africa possessing an estimated 65 per cent of the world’s arable land, current yields are only a third of the global average.
CEO of Gates Ag One, Joe Cornelius praised AATF’s role in the sector, stating, “AATF is a prominent player that develops, adapts, and commercialises agricultural technologies to enhance productivity and climate resilience among smallholder farmers. We’re thrilled to partner with AATF to bring these innovations to farmers across Africa, bolstering crop yields and food security.”
Gates Ag One, a non-profit affiliate of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was established with the aim of harnessing advancements in global crop science to meet the evolving needs of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The organisation invests in early scientific discoveries to expedite the development of improved crops, ultimately closing the yield gap.